Rio Tinto says iron ore expansion plans on track

PERTH Mon Mar 19, 2012 10:58pm EDT

PERTH (Reuters) - Rio Tinto (RIO.AX) (RIO.L), the world's second-largest iron ore producer, said that its plans to expand production were well advanced for completion next year despite concerns over cooling demand in China,

"Although the rate of GDP growth in China is more immediately slowing, we remain confident on the basis of the figures we have seen, of a soft landing, with solid growth for this year," David Joyce, managing director of expansion projects, said in a speech.

Rio Tinto plans to boost output from its mines in Australia's western Pilbara iron belt to 283 million metric tonnes (311.9 million tons) a year by the second half of 2013, up from the current 225 million tonnes. That would represent about a fifth of current world trade in the key steel making ingredient.

(Reporting by James Regan; Editing by Ed Davies)